Is Shooting Sharks Legal?

Question: A friend of mine went out Thresher shark fishing this week off of Newport Beach in his relatively small boat, but didn’t catch any. I asked him what in the heck he would have done if he’d hooked one because I think it would have been too big for him to safely land it. He said he was going to bring it up to his boat, SHOOT IT, and then drag it home. Is shooting a shark legal? And is it legal to have guns on a boat at all? What about using a bang stick? I know the laws on traveling with a firearm and safe storage of a gun and all that jazz, but I’ve never heard of any laws pertaining to possession on a boat on the ocean. What’s the law on this? (Mark S.)

Answer: Sport fishermen may take sharks by hand, hook and line, spearfishing, spear, harpoon or bow and arrow (ref. Sections 28.65, 28.90 and 28.95.)

Firearms are not a legal method of take for sharks, so a gun can’t be used to assist in the taking or landing of a shark. A bang stick would be considered a firearm in this case, and would therefore not be a legal method of take for sharks either. However, if a shark is already in the person’s possession (in the boat), the DFG does not regulate how it is killed. For safety reasons though, I would hope that you would choose to use another method.

In regards to the legality of shooting a firearm from your boat, it would depend on your location, what county/city you are in, and how far offshore. In general, no city allows you to discharge a firearm in their jurisdiction. A person would have to contact the city/county law enforcement office that has jurisdiction over the area they are fishing to determine how far off-shore they would need to be.

Is It Legal to Carry a “Snake Charmer” Gun to Kill Rattlesnakes?
Question: I encounter rattlesnakes every couple of days on the roads I travel and am wondering if it is legal to carry a .410 “snake charmer” gun with me to kill them? The snakes are usually on the side of the road and I collect their rattles. I keep the gun unloaded at all times, of course, but I know most of the surrounding property owners and they don’t want the rattlesnakes around on their ranches either. Is what I’ve been doing all legal to do? Thank you. (Brian)

Answer: Rattlesnakes may be taken by any method and the daily bag and possession limit for them is two (ref. CCR, Title 14, Section 5.60[a]).

Regarding your “snake charmer,” you must be off the road/highway to discharge your gun. If you shoot a firearm from or upon a public road or highway, you will be guilty of a misdemeanor (ref. Penal Code Section 374c). It is also unlawful to intentionally discharge any firearm … over or across any public road or way open to the public, in an unsafe manner (ref. Fish & Game Code, Section 3004[b]).

Trespassing on private property which is fenced or posted (with signs three per mile and at entry points) or under cultivation is against the law unless you have written permission from the property owner (ref. Fish & Game Code, Section 2016). There could be additional regulations within your county regarding the discharge of firearms, so you should contact the local Sheriff’s Department.

One point I’d like to add though is that although many people don’t like rattlesnakes and will kill them immediately upon sight, rattlesnakes do serve an important ecological purpose by helping to control rodent populations. Ground squirrels, mice and other rodents can become terrible pests in the absence of predators, and predators are an important and major key to helping to keep rodent populations in check.

How Do Biologists Deal With the Spread of Quagga?
Question: I’ve followed the issue of the spreading Quagga with great interest. I understand the diligence needed to curb this spread but wonder about migrant birds that fly from lake, to aqueduct, to lake, to stream. Is there a logical way in which a marine biologist could address this issue? (Mike S., Simi Valley)

Answer: While it is biologically possible for the transmission of Quagga or Zebra mussel propagules by wildlife or birds, such translocation is not considered significant. According to Invasive Mussel Control Coordinator, Breck McAlexander, he isn’t aware of any way that could completely eliminate this type of movement. However, he thought transmission from wildlife and birds is considered a much lower risk of an eventual new infestation than the greater potential for human-caused spread of invasive Eurasian mussels. He said that this has occurred and can occur in the future from contaminated watercraft or water deliveries. Fortunately, we do have some control over those. Education and vigilance are paramount to prevent this from happening throughout the western U.S., McAlexander said.

#  #  #

Carrie Wilson is a marine biologist with the California Department of Fish and Game. While she cannot personally answer everyone’s questions, she will select a few to answer each week. Please contact her at

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s